2018-2019 Catalog 
    Jul 21, 2024  
2018-2019 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Graduate School of Theology

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Tim Sensing, Associate Dean of Graduate School of Theology
ACU Box 29422
Abilene, Texas 79699-9422
Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building, Room 313

Phone: 325-674-3730
Fax: 325-674-6180
Email: sensingt@acu.edu
Web: www.acu.edu/gst


Frederick Aquino, Professor
Brady Bryce, Assistant Professor
Jeff Childers, Professor
Kenneth Cukrowski, Associate Professor
Chris Flanders, Associate Professor
Douglas Foster, Professor, Scholar in Residence
Kelli Bryant Gibson, Assistant Professor
Mark Hamilton, Professor
Stephen Johnson, Associate Professor
Carson E. Reed, Associate Professor
Timothy Sensing, Professor
James Thompson, Professor, Scholar in Residence
Melinda Thompson, Associate Professor
Richard Wright, Associate Professor

Faculty from other departments who teach in this program:

Jon Camp, Associate Professor, Communication and Sociology
Craig Churchill, Associate Professor of Library Science and Theological Librarian
Randy Harris, Instructor, DBMM
Houston Heflin, Associate Professor, DBMM
Christopher Hutson, Associate Professor, DBMM
Royce Money, Faculty Emeritus, CBS
Curt Niccum, Professor, DBMM
Jerry Taylor, Associate Professor, DBMM
Wendell Willis, Professor, DBMM
David Wray, Faculty Emeritus, CBS


The Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University offers a variety of degrees and programs designed to meet the complex needs of its students. Its goal is to be both academically rigorous and practical in equipping students for effective ministry.

The faculty view their work as integral to the university’s mission: to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world. All programs attempt to instill in students the heart and nature of Christ, opportunities for service and spiritual growth, and educational and ministry opportunities in the U.S. and abroad.


The Graduate School of Theology is located in the College of Biblical Studies and is vitally engaged in its goals and tasks. The stated mission of the college is to provide leadership preparation and resources for effective worldwide ministry in the cause of Christ.

The mission of the Graduate School of Theology is to equip men and women for effective missional leadership for ministry in all its forms and to provide strong academic foundations for theological inquiry. It is within this framework that the Graduate School of Theology has set its purposes:

  • to prepare men and women for effective work in a variety of ministry settings;
  • to provide specific ministry skills in the areas of preaching, teaching, worship, missions, pastoral counseling, congregational ministry, youth and family ministry, children’s ministry, church leadership, spiritual formation, and program development;
  • to provide adequate academic foundations to students in the various theological disciplines including textual studies, biblical languages, church history, and historical theology;
  • to provide an academic and interpersonal environment by which the theological disciplines can be integrated one with another as well as with the students’ ministry skills and their personal spiritual development;
  • to equip adequately those students who desire advanced academic work including doctoral studies in schools of religion, seminaries, or universities.

The Graduate School of Theology is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). This accreditation guarantees that programs and faculty are of the highest quality. Students must complete all master’s degree requirements within ten years and doctoral degree requirements within six years. The degree requirements are the same for both residential and online students.

Degrees Offered

The Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree is a 33-hour degree oriented toward ministerial leadership. It requires a project/thesis and includes tracks in Christian Spiritual Formation, Leadership for Missional Renewal, and Preaching for Community Transformation.

The Master of Arts (MA) degree, a 48-hour thesis program, includes tracks in New Testament, Old Testament, Theology, Ancient and Oriental Christianity, and Modern and American Christianity.

The Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (MACM) a 48-hour degree, for specialized ministry.

In cooperation with the School of Social Work and the Department of Marriage and Family Studies, the Graduate School of Theology has developed plans whereby students can pursue the MACM concurrently with the MSSW or MMFT degrees.

The Master of Arts in Global Service (MAGS) is a 48-hour program that provides an innovative, real-world curriculum that will equip Christian leaders for service in global contexts.

The Master of Divinity (MDiv) is a 72-hour comprehensive degree, which integrates the various theological disciplines with the practice of ministry and personal spiritual formation. A mission track is also available.

The Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Arts in Global Service and Master of Divinity degrees integrate writing and research skills with the practice of ministry. Opportunities for contextual education in ministry are integral to these degree programs. Students are required to participate in a first and final review prior to graduation.

The departmental faculty combines the finest academic preparation from some of the world’s outstanding universities with intense interest in the effective practice of ministry.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for the Masters of Arts and Master of Divinity are as follows:

  1. A completed application for admission with a nonrefundable application fee;
  2. An official transcript(s) in English (or translated to English) of all previous colleges attended. The transcript must indicate an earned bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university or equivalent;
  3. A cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. For doctoral programs, a minimum cumulative graduate GPA of 3.0 on a 4-point scale;
  4. Two letters of recommendation; and
  5. A reflective essay, three to five pages in length (typed, double-spaced) following the guidelines on the GST website, www.acu.edu/gst.
  6. An academic writing sample following the guidelines on the GST website, www.acu.edu/gst.

Registration for courses begins in April (for fall) and October (for spring and summer). Students are therefore urged to submit all admission materials before registration begins.

Online Option

The Graduate School of Theology offers online options for the MDiv, MACM, and MAGS degrees. Students may take a combination of online and residential classes, allowing them to remain in their local ministry context while pursuing advanced theological education. Online courses are taught by GST faculty and qualified adjuncts. Residential classes may be offered as week-long intensives, two-weekend courses, or over the full semester for those within driving distance of Abilene. Intensive classes are offered on the ACU campus and at approved course offering sites in Accra, Ghana; Manzini, Swaziland; and Zagreb, Croatia.

The Association of Theological Schools requires all vocational ministry students to earn a certain percentage of their degree in a face-to-face setting. The GST has special permissions (ATS-approved exceptions to Degree Program Standard A, section A.3.1.3. and Standard B, section B.3.1.3.) which only require our students to take four classes (12 credit hours) in residence, regardless of their degree program. Students should consult with their advisor to determine which classes may be taken online and which should be taken in residence.

Candidacy Process

The Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (MACM), Master of Arts in Global Service (MAGS), and the Master of Divinity (MDiv) are formational degrees that require students to make progress in their academic, personal, and professional development. Students will be granted candidacy when the First Review is passed (after completing 21 hours for MACM and MAGS; 27 hours for MDiv).

Scholarships and Assistantships

The Graduate School of Theology awards scholarships that cover part of a student’s tuition. Most Graduate School of Theology students receive scholarships each year. To be eligible, a student must be planning to do full-time ministry after graduation. In addition, the Graduate School of Theology awards many graduate assistantships each year. The deadline for applying for scholarships and assistantships is June 1 for fall and November 1 for spring. Scholarship applications received after these dates will be considered only if funds are available.

Multiple Degrees

Students enrolled simultaneously or sequentially in two master’s programs in the Graduate School of Theology may overlap some courses in both degrees. However, no more than 24 hours can be shared, and all requirements for both degrees must be met.

Courses numbered 700 or above in the Graduate School of Theology may be taken by doctoral students only.

Integrated Programs

The Department of Bible, Missions, and Ministry offers several integrated program options, which shorten the time it takes to complete both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Bible at ACU. In these programs, high-performing undergraduate students count a specified number of graduate courses toward both degrees. For details regarding the Department of Bible, Missions, and Ministry’s integrated programs, click here .

Master of Arts

The Master of Arts (MA) degree is considered a program oriented toward research and general theological studies. It is a degree (including thesis) providing basic understanding of theological disciplines for further graduate study or general educational purposes. Students who have completed substantial work at the undergraduate level may receive advanced standing (maximum 12 hours) in this degree. This degree requires the demonstration of advanced research and writing skills culminating in a thesis and oral defense. The MA includes tracks in Old Testament, New Testament, Theology, Ancient and Oriental Christianity, and Modern and American Christianity.

Master of Arts in Christian Ministry

The Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (MACM) is a 48-hour degree designed to equip individuals primarily for church ministry roles other than preaching. This degree prepares students for competent leadership in some form of specialized ministry in congregations or other settings. The MACM degree is normally two years in duration for a full-time student. Persons admitted with some advanced theological study or with extensive undergraduate studies in Bible, religion, and ministry may receive up to 12 hours of advanced standing. Consult with the advisor.

Master of Divinity

The Master of Divinity (MDiv) is the basic degree in theological education. It is a 72-hour comprehensive program of studies designed to prepare graduates to serve as pulpit ministers, counselors, Christian educators, campus ministers, other ministers of the church and chaplains, and it provides the foundation for the PhD, ThD, and DMin degrees. This three-year program seeks to provide a knowledge of the Bible and related disciplines, to integrate the knowledge of these disciplines with the skills for various ministries and to provide the opportunity for spiritual formation. Co-curricular experiences, such as the mentoring program and graduate chapel, seek to nurture the whole person in preparation for ministry.

Persons admitted with some advanced theological study or with extensive undergraduate studies in Bible, religion, and ministry may receive up to 18 hours of advanced standing. Consult with the advisor.

Doctor of Ministry

The Doctor of Ministry (DMin) is an advanced program oriented toward ministerial leadership. Its purpose is to enhance the practice of ministry for persons who hold the Master of Divinity degree and have engaged in ministerial leadership. It is a 33-hour program that requires a project/thesis which includes effective ministry intervention in a specific setting, a thesis which demonstrates the integration of theology and practice, and an oral examination. Distinguished from academic research programs such as the PhD or ThD, the primary emphasis of the Doctor of Ministry program is on excellence in the practice of ministry and is not intended to be an academic teaching degree.

The aim of ACU’s DMin degree is to provide the context for deepened spiritual formation for ministerial leaders, to advance skill development for leadership in faith communities, and to promote critical theological reflection that informs mission and practice. This program includes biblical interpretation, theological reflection, applied leadership theory, congregational studies, and practical theology.

The format of the DMin program is built on a series of intensive courses taken in residence on ACU’s campus or at a designated learning site. With few exceptions, each course consists of pre- and post-class assignments in addition to a 1-day to 2-week residency on ACU’s campus or at a designated learning site. Most courses utilize a hybrid format, incorporating both online and face-to-face learning and assignments. The residency periods occur each year during 1 week in January or March and 2 weeks in June. Orientation takes place on 1 weekend in June. Spiritual formation retreats take place on one weekend in June; students will complete one spiritual formation retreat during their first June residency and one spiritual formation retreat in a subsequent June residency of their choice.

Students’ initial residency must include all of the following: BIBM 701 , BIBM 716 , and a spiritual formation retreat. The next residency should include BIBM 724 . Subsequent residencies may include up to 4 hours each spring residency and up to 8 hours each June residency.

All requirements for a course must be completed before a student is permitted to enroll in an additional course. A minimum of three years and a maximum of six years are allowed for the completion of the degree.

The student is expected to maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.25 during the program. A grade of “C” in a course automatically puts the student on academic probation; the project/thesis must have a grade of “B” or above to graduate.

Transfer of credits from other accredited programs must be approved by the DMin director and GST associate dean. No more than two courses or six hours may be transferred.

The DMin has a program fee instead of standard tuition. Contact the assistant director for more complete information regarding scholarships, financial aid, housing, and admission.


A Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree, or its educational equivalent, from an institution accredited by a nationally recognized regional accrediting agency or by the Association of Theological Schools is required for admission to the program.

Ministers who hold an accredited master’s degree in religion, other than the MDiv, will be required to complete graduate courses equivalent to the standard requirements for the MDiv degree at Abilene Christian University. An equivalency application may be obtained from the GST Recruiter. Return the application, application fee, and official transcript(s) of all master’s level work to the Office of Graduate Programs. The MDiv Equivalency advisor will review the completed application and develop an equivalency plan.

DMin applicants must be involved in full-time ministry, and must have been involved in full-time ministry for at least three years following the completion of their first theological master’s degree.

Admission Requirements

Application materials are due to the DMin office by January 31 each year.

  1. A completed application for admission with a nonrefundable application fee;
  2. Recommendation forms from four persons knowledgeable of the applicant’s personal character and performance in ministry; at least one recommendation should provide an academic reference;
  3. Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work, with degrees posted. All transcripts from outside the United States must be accompanied by a course-by-course credential evaluation from an approved company. A minimum GPA of 3.2 (on a 4.0 scale) in prior graduate work is required;
  4. A documentation of ministry employment form which includes a letter from the applicant’s elders or supervisors acknowledging their approval of the minister’s participation in the program;
  5. A five-to-nine page, typed and double spaced, admission essay including personal self-reflection statement, reflection on ministry context, and project/thesis interest statement; and
  6. A personal interview with the DMin director may be required.

Upon completion of all the above requirements, the applicant’s file is reviewed by the DMin director and GST associate dean for official action. The applicant will be informed by letter regarding their admission status once a decision is reached.

Upon admission to the program, new students must complete a battery of psychological tests. A fee for this testing is assessed.

Course work in the program begins in June of each year. If an applicant does not enter at the first June residency period after being accepted into the program, the admission will be honored for one additional June residency period.

Candidacy Process

The DMin is a formational degree that requires students to make progress in their academic, personal, and professional development. Therefore, students will be required to apply for candidacy after the first ten hours. Students should submit the Application for Candidacy Status form to the DMin office. Students must be approved prior to beginning second-year studies.


    Doctor of MinistryMaster of ArtsMaster of Arts in Christian MinistryMaster of Divinity

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